L-R: Aryeh Deri, Yaakov Litzman, Moshe Kahlon and PM Netanyahu
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky, Gil Yohanan, Yoav Dudkevitch and AFP
Ministers flesh out compromise deal to avert snap elections
In bid to resolve coalition crisis threatening to drag nation to the polls, ministers work on compromise deal designed to mollify intransigent stance by Council of Torah Sages, which has instructed Haredi party to make its support for 2019 state budget dependent on passage of amendment to IDF draft law favoring Haredi exemption from military service.
Coalition ministers have begun drawing up a plan that will be presented Thursday evening to Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman in a bid to resolve the ongoing crisis that has gripped the government regarding IDF conscription.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi), Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Chairman of the Finance Committee Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), together with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, began outlining a blueprint Thursday morning which is designed to mollify the intransigent position being taken by Litzman’s United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party in a bid to avert the calling of snap elections.
The ministers are hoping that Litzman will present the compromise to the Council of Torah Sages who demanded that he make his support for the 2019 state budget dependent on the passage of an amendment to the current conscription law that would solicit state recognition of Torah studies to being equal to military service.
The crisis that erupted over the last fortnight was intensified when UTJ threatened last week not to support the 2019 state budget unless the bill was passed.
Jolted into hammering out a compromise in the absence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned from the US that either a solution is found to the deadlock or the nation will go to the ballot box, the ministers are now attempting to first define agreed upon goals on conscription and sanctions for failures to meet them are still being debated.
However, Netanyahu is sticking to his demand that his coalition partners provide a firm commitment that they not use any pretext to withdraw from the government, thereby precipitating its dismantlement.
The compromise is expected, inter alia, to include a quota of 3,800 Haredi conscripts into the military and the civil service which will rise each draft cycle.
In the event that the quota is not met, the law would expire every five years and need to be approved afresh. The sanctions currently being debated for failure to enlist, in the meantime, are strictly economic.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has remained out of the turmoil, instead issuing orders that a compromise be reached.
Nevertheless, some politicians across the spectrum have posited that his uncharacteristic lack of direct involvement is the product of a carefully orchestrated campaign to intensify the political maelstrom.
Some have speculated that the tactic is a mere ploy to let the government unravel itself, thereby providing a pretext for Netanyahu to call elections, bolster his mandate and extricate himself from the net of corruption investigations closing in around him, while simultaneously demonstrating his indispensability in keeping a coalition together.
Regardless of Netanyahu’s stated or rumored motives, his public demand that the government ride the storm until the 2019 elections may be frustrated by Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who is refusing to promise to remaining in the government if the conscription bill goes through its three readings now.
MK Eliezer Moses (UTJ) said that despite the attempts to solve the crisis, “We are still far from any solution and obviously we won’t agree to voting for the state budget.”
“The entire government is obligated by the coalition agreement, all the partners committed to supporting the draft bill. We’re not coming now with something new,” he said in an interview with Ynet.
Asked whether Netanyahu was doing everything in his power to resolve the problem, Moses said that his return to Israel on Friday will provide a clearer indication.
“He returns tomorrow and we will see what the day brings. At the moment we still have no formula, I have no one to even go to. There’s talk about preliminary reading or three readings, second reading, third reading. Give us something. We don’t have anything,” he complained, but added that the crisis can be resolved if the warring sides come together.